Thursday, February 25, 2021
According to FOCUS Magazine, a recent survey of 200 associations around the world revealed that 66% believe that COVID has fundamentally impacted how they operate. The pandemic has forced many associations to rethink how their value proposition, engagement strategies, and ways they conduct business.
Like many associations, the American Evaluation Association has had no choice but to embrace the digital revolution and optimize the numerous advantages and opportunities available so that we can build sustainable engagement structures with the evaluation community. Our annual conference theme connects to the celebration of AEA’s 35th anniversary: “AEA at 35: Meeting the Moment.” We will continue to find new ways to meet the moment and rise above challenges to ensure that our programs and services continue, while seeking understanding from our membership for the need to make shifts.
Earlier this month we announced that our 2021 Annual Conference would be hosted in a virtual format. Our decision to pivot to a virtual event was based on three (3) major factors: consideration for the safety and well-being of our attendees and staff, the current pause by the District of Columbia government on meetings of our size due to the pandemic, and the permanent closing of our contracted venue. Over 2,100 participants contributed to the success of our 2020 virtual event, and we are building on that success for our virtual event in November!
Transformation is key in order to “meet the moment,” and we are focused on being flexible so that our services and programs remain most accessible. For example, hosting the Annual Business Meeting virtually in 2020 provided an opportunity for ALL members of AEA to participate, not just those who attended the conference. We hosted the virtual business meeting outside of the conference platform so that access was equitable, and did not exclude those who could not afford the registration fee.
AEA has been fortunate to successfully navigate what we hope were the most difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we experienced decreases in revenue, we were able to make adjustments that mitigated further loss. However, we acknowledge that many people are still struggling, and we are committed to keeping AEA accessible to our members who were financially impacted by the pandemic. Stay tuned to E-News announcements for more information on special pricing and scholarships for conference registration.
As we continue to move forward through a transformative lens to “meet the moment,” we do so through key elements: communities, governance, structure, and finances. We will gather information through our bi-annual membership survey that will launch in April to make decisions based on how you respond. Member participation in this survey is crucial, so don’t miss the opportunity to share your voice!
To celebrate 35 years as an association, AEA is highlighting members that have made an impact within the association and industry. This month, AEA spoke with David Bernstein, Ph.D., an AEA inaugural member. Read about David's background, involvement with AEA, and where he sees the association heading in the future.
I am the Accreditation Manager & Director of Evaluation with the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, & Administration. I also am the owner of DJB Evaluation Consulting, specializing in evaluation of programs for people with disabilities and older adults. I am proud to say that I am an inaugural member of the American Evaluation Association.
After I got my Master of Public Administration degree in 1983 from The George Washington University, I received an appointment as a Policy Research Associate with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In the fall, all of the senior staff were going to the joint Evaluation Research Society (ERS) and Evaluation Network (ENet) Conference. I did not make it to the 1983 conference. In 1984, I took a position with the American Red Cross. I made it to the 1984 conference, and became involved with the ERS Nonprofit and Foundation Topical Interest Group (TIG). I was chair of the TIG from 1985 to 1987, and transitioned the TIG from ERS to AEA. In 1988, I started working with Montgomery County, Maryland as the County Executive’s Program Evaluation Coordinator. In 1990, I became the founding Chair of the State and Local Government Evaluation TIG (which later became the Government Evaluation TIG). While a doctoral student in public administration at The George Washington University, I joined a group that was starting the Graduate Student and New Evaluator TIG, and became it’s first Chair. I’ve been on several AEA Working Groups and Task Forces, President of Washington Evaluators, the Washington, DC AEA affiliate, AEA Conference Local Arrangements Working Group Co-Chair for two AEA conferences, program co-chair for the 2017 AEA conference, and am currently a member of the AEA Conference Advisory Working Group. I’ve been a frequent contributor to aea365, and was a co-editor of a new volume of New Directions for Program Evaluation.
AEA has experienced tremendous growth in the last 35 years. Around the time of its creation, AEA may have had a couple of thousand members. AEA has become increasingly international. Part of AEA’s growth is related to the trans-disciplinary nature of evaluation. Our profession has attracted members from a variety of fields: education, public administration, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and on and on. The broad net of evaluation has also led to a proliferation of Topical Interest Groups, with 60 TIGs. AEA’s diversity is one of its strengths. So are AEA conferences. The conference has always been a highlight of my membership in AEA. I had the honor of getting to know and work with the founders and leaders of the field of evaluation. AEA has become increasingly diverse, and that diversity is evident throughout the organization. That said, there is a lot more work to be done. The field of evaluation, while flawed like any human endeavor, is an inherently honest and self-reflective profession, and I predict it will continue to be so.
Volunteers and volunteerism have always been the heart of AEA. While we have been blessed with two highly competent management companies, there is no AEA without the active and meaningful inclusion of its members. I see this as a continued strength. There is no way that AEA could support 60 TIGs and all of its other activities without the volunteers who are the heart and soul, and the key to its continued growth.
This question made me laugh, because over the years it seems like I was getting involved with a different TIG! I am honored by my association with those TIGs. The one role that has not changed in the last 35 years is member. I am proud that AEA is my professional home, and provided me with many, many great opportunities to learn and contribute.
There is one experience that I think is historically significant and symbolic of how AEA has grown over the years. There was a time characterized by the term “the methods wars.” In 1990, Yvonna Lincoln, a leading expert in qualitative methods, was President of AEA. The next year during his presidential address at the AEA Luncheon, Lee Sechrest was dismissive of qualitative methods. I happened to be seated with the leadership of the Qualitative Evaluation TIG. The look of shock (and anger) on their faces and the discussion that followed was fascinating, to say the least. It made me glad that I had always used a mixed-methods approach in my evaluation practice. As noted in AEA’s Evaluation Roadmap for a More Effective Government, “The choice of analytic approaches and methods depends on the questions addressed, the purpose of undertaking the evaluation, the kind of program evaluated, the circumstances under which the program is implemented, its implementation status, the budgetary resources available, when the evaluation results are needed, and the evaluation’s intended audience. Furthermore, regardless of the choice, all evaluation methods should be context-sensitive, have cultural relevance, and be methodologically sound and rigorous.” [AEA, September 2019]. The evaluation questions determine the evaluation methods, not the other way around.
My least favorite memory was one of the few AEA conferences I missed. In 1989, I was on a plane over Nevada when the San Francisco earthquake occurred. My plane never made it to San Francisco, and I never made it to the 1989 AEA Conference.
The diversification of evaluation combined with a “big-tent” approach has continued to make AEA a vibrant and meaningful organization. The biggest milestone was probably the decision to hire a management company to help run the association. The recognition that AEA’s growth necessitated a mix of professional management and volunteers has become the backbone of our association.
I am proud of my affiliation with AEA over the last 35 (plus) years, and the privilege of calling myself a professional evaluator and inaugural AEA member.
This year, AEA celebrates 35 years as an association! Last month, we asked you to test your knowledge of AEA. Find out how you did below:
1. What year did AEA's first conference take place?
2. AEA has members in more than how many countries?
3. AEA was established through the merger of what two groups?
Ready for more? Test your knowledge this month with quiz #2! Then, check the next issue to see if your answers were correct!
Create your own user feedback survey
Hello AEA members! We hope this finds you safe and warm. The AEA Board has held two meetings since the last newsletter and we are off to a great start! The 2021 board agenda has been set and a main item of focus is the contracted work we have with the Center for Nonprofit Management to assist the board’s work to vision the future of AEA. Our facilitator has begun the work and we will be engaging throughout the year with their team. The consulting team is engaging with staff, board, and organizational data over the next month, so there will likely be a more robust update on that work for the April newsletter.
At our February meeting, the board voted to approve the Awards Task Force that will be led by Eric Barela and Sharon Rallis. This work is expected to run throughout the remainder of this year with the hoped engagement of potential recommendations for improvement by members at the annual virtual experience. The Task Force is charged with “reviewing the current processes and providing the AEA Board and staff with recommendations for revising AEA’s awards program. They will be recruiting a diverse set of volunteers for the work and focusing on improvements to the awards processes in preparation for the program to be relaunched in 2022.
The board continues to discuss improvements for self-assessment processes regarding the use of policy governance as a governing model. We are reviewing several instruments designed by consultants in the policy governance realm. We hope to arrive on a tool to use for our board meetings as well as one to use annually to ensure our adherence to the model. We continue to learn more about the model and strive to practice it well.
Finally, a review and possible refresh of the AEA bylaws is underway by the board. It has been over 10 years since those were reviewed, so board members would like to pursue a review that assures clarity, consistency with structure and mission, and pull out any redundancies that may exist between the bylaws and policies. This work will take the course of the year, and any recommended changes will be communicated to members in a variety of different settings. It is important that members have transparency into these processes, as any potential recommended changes to the bylaws need a full member vote to approve. That would likely occur in 2022, if deemed necessary.
We hope that you have received the notice of the virtual experience, AEA at 35: Meeting the Moment, this year from November 8-11. We hope that our learnings from last years’ experience will allow us to improve our processes for this year. As always, we encourage all members to submit proposals, volunteer for TIG review positions, and generally jump in however you are able. Make sure your member profile is complete on the new AEA website. Your profile information is used when looking to fill volunteer roles. AEA runs effectively because we all work together!
Federal agencies are moving forward with producing learning agendas, or evidence-building plans, now required by a law called the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act).
Guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) describes learning agendas as multi-year plans that identify as strategy for addressing policy questions, including a list of the questions as well as the data and analytical approaches needed to address those questions.
In September 2020, federal agencies were required to submit initial, short-term plans to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Over the next year, federal agencies will be developing more complete agendas to align with quadrennial strategic planning activities. The complete plans are expected to be published in February 2022.
To support federal agencies in producing learning agendas as well as the evaluation community identifying strategies to engage, a new report published through the IBM Center for the Business of Government offers perspectives about the early stages of learning agenda formulation. Specifically, the report describes emerging practices for successfully developing learning agencies that meaningfully engage agency leaders, managers, and key stakeholders.
While multiple models exist for reasonably devising a learning agenda, the Learning Agenda Design Sprint offered in the report presents an approach for devising a user-centered agenda, bridging the gap between research users, such as policymakers, and the producers of evidence, including evaluators.
The report identifies a number of key success factors for the learning agenda process to promote the activity being meaningful and useful in agencies:
Several agencies like the Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration have been using learning agendas for several years with success in partnership with the evaluation community. As other agencies begin to adopt the practice and share the plans, the AEA community will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the questions, data, and approaches in learning agendas, as well as a critical role for supporting the implementation with evaluations.
After much consideration, AEA is excited to announce that we will offer a virtual experience in place of our in-person conference for 2021. Eval21 Reimagined: A Virtual Experience will take place online November 8-12, 2021.
While AEA had planned to host an in-person conference this year, we have made the decision to move forward with a virtual experience due to a change of circumstances with our contracted venue and the current uncertainty surrounding in-person events due to COVID-19.
Our early decision to transition to a virtual event allows our staff and volunteers to fully plan for a virtual experience, including proposal submissions and session acceptances that will help AEA deliver a high quality education program that enhances your experience.
As we continue to plan the program, we ask for your patience and understanding in the details we can share at this point. We will plan to communicate more information regarding the virtual experience as soon as it becomes available. Proposal submissions will open in March and extend into May. We will clearly communicate changes to the submission process and requirements for submitting your proposal at that time.
AEA is still planning an in-person event for Evaluation 2022, scheduled for November 7-12, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
We thank you for your patience during a time of continuous change and look forward to delivering an outstanding educational experience this fall. As our conference theme suggests, it is time for AEA to "Meet the Moment" and move forward with planning an event with our community's safety and best interest in mind.
We encourage you to also keep an eye out for the opening of proposal submissions next month.
For more information, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page on the AEA website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are sad to report Melissa J. Mercer-Tachick died on Friday January 15, 2021, at Henry Ford Allegiance Hospice Residence following a battle with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. Melissa was a valued member of the AEA community and a longtime supporter of the association. Melissa most notably served as a dedicated TIG Leader for many years as well as on the TIG Scan Working Group. She will be dearly missed. Our thoughts go out to Melissa’s family and friends.
Read more about Melissa here. For those that would like to honor Melissa, a memorial fund has been established to honor her: https://gofund.me/811a08dd.
The new eval.org is here! AEA is excited to present a new and improved association website, designed to create a more welcoming and easier user experience for professional evaluators. When creating the new site, we focused on improving communication, access to resources, and connections within our community – all with the help of feedback from our valued members and volunteers.
As AEA embarks on its 35th anniversary, we continue to evolve as an association, and this new website helps us in that evolution to create a modern home that reflects the advancement of the association and evaluation as a field.
To access member-only content, you must update your password when you first log into the site. Your login email is the primary email associated with your AEA account; simply update your password when prompted, then explore!
If you are having any issues updating your information or using the new site, please email AEA directly at email@example.com.
AEA members can receive a 20% discount off of select Oxford University Press social work and research method titles when they order through the website www.oup.com/academic using the discount code AEA20. We do have a number of new titles that your members may be interested in that I’ve outlined below—please feel free to share this information however you see fit whether on the website or in the newsletter or using social media. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Clinical Assessment for Social Workers - Clinical Assessment for Social Workers provides a wide range of standardized assessment tools, derived from different perspectives, to give readers greater flexibility in information gathering and intervention planning. Incorporating both quantitative and qualitative methods, the authors encourage readers to approach assessment as both an art and a science. They advocate for discovering the balance between scientific, evidence-based approaches and the development of personal practice wisdom.
Practical Implementation in Social Work Practice - Practical Implementation in Social Work Practice is a helpful guide that showcases the benefits of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP), with an emphasis on the implementation of high-quality interventions. The book expands on the EBP process from the applied and practical lenses, beginning with an overview of the process of EBP and the relationship between EBP and implementation. Within the chapters, readers will find specialized insight, practical industry tips, and adaptable implementation frameworks and tools to use on their own.
If you are a publisher and would like to participate as an AEA publishing partner, or if you are an author of an evaluation-related text from an alternate publisher that you would like to see participate, please contact the AEA office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Digital Knowledge Hub is an online platform featuring professional development opportunities for evaluators, by evaluators. See eStudies available for purchase like the ones below.
In-depth eStudy courses offer a deep dive into top-of-mind evaluation themes and topics. Open to both members and nonmembers alike, eStudies provide a diverse learning experience where collaboration is encouraged.
Presenter: Rebeca Pop, Founder, Vizlogue LLC
Dates: March 1, 12:00 p.m. (EST); March 3, 12:00 p.m. (EST)
As a program evaluator, you are likely creating reports and data visualizations. But have you ever paused to design a framework that you could use when visualizing data? A framework would make your work more strategic and save you time and energy. In this eStudy, you will identify the steps you should take to avoid data pitfalls, learn how to make thoughtful design choices, and learn ways to incorporate storytelling elements. This is a highly interactive eStudy. Participants will be exposed to real-world examples and exercises.
Presenters: Jane Reisman, Founder and former leader of ORS Impact, and Veronica Olazabal, Senior Adviser and Director of Measurement, Evaluation and Organizational Performance at The Rockefeller Foundation
Dates: March 10, 2021 1:00-2:30 (EST); March 17, 2021 1:00-2:30 (EST); March 24, 2021 1:00-2:30 (EST); March 31, 2021 1:00-2:30 (EST); April 7, 2021 1:00-2:30 (EST)
During this course, we will address these questions while exploring both the demand and supply side of generating evidence, validating results, and promoting use of data in decision making in this new area. We will also learn practical M&E skills that can be applied and/or tailored to meet the needs of these newer stakeholders. Finally, we will ground-truth concepts and theories through discussions with experts and practitioners, highlighting the challenges and opportunities in measurement and evaluation for sustainable and responsible investment.
Looking for a crash course in evaluation? Purchase the Introduction to Eval 101 on-demand course!
Created with the assistance of Tom Chapel, Chief Evaluation Officer for the CDC, Eval 101 provides an overview of the evaluation framework. This hands-on, self-paced eLearning course uses case studies and simulations to teach the step-by-step framework for program evaluation. The tools and insights learned from Eval 101 will empower you to use evaluative thinking effectively and make an immediate and practical impact on your evaluation practice.
As an AEA member, you have free access to our library of Coffee Breaks. These short, 20 minute webinars are great for sharing lessons with your students or other colleagues, while you are apart.
Here are a few Coffee Breaks you might be interested in:
In this section, we spotlight events of interest to the AEA community, suggested by fellow members. Please note these events are not sponsored by AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event, email Cady Stokes, AEA newsletter editor, at email@example.com.
For the past 24 years, TEI has offered evaluation courses for new and seasoned practitioners led by experts in the field. We provide rigorous training in skills related to the foundations of evaluation, collecting data, analyzing data, creating effective reports, developing logic models and theories of change, managing and implementing evaluations, and more. Participation in TEI courses build towards our professional certificates in evaluation. Learn more about TEI at our website.
Register today for our March course offerings. We offer early bird, multicourse, and group discounts.
To learn more about our March course offerings and schedule, visit our registration page.
For further questions, please contact us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join our mailing list to get updates about all 2021 TEI programs.
In this section, we spotlight events that may be of interest to the AEA community, as suggested by fellow members. Please note these events are not sponsored by AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event, email Cady Stokes, AEA newsletter editor, at email@example.com.
In this section, we spotlight events of interest to the AEA community, suggested by fellow members. Please note these events are not sponsored by AEA. If you would like to suggest an upcoming event or highlight actions members are taking during the COVID-19 crisis, email Cady Stokes, AEA newsletter editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AEA would like to recognize and thank some of its most longstanding members. Click here to view individuals who are celebrating 5+, 10+, 20+ and 30+ years with the association this month!
AEA would like to welcome those who have recently joined the association. Click here to view a list of AEA's newest members.